George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history—it’s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park’s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm—a cattle operation circa 1830—where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park’s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.
In Houston, September beats out July and August for the hottest month of the year—it has nothing to do with the weather, however. The culprit behind the elevated heat level is the Houston Hot Sauce Festival. This annual event brings together exhibitors from across the country to sell and hand out samples of their signature hot sauces, salsas, jams, dips, and other spicy foods. Luckily, vendors also supply plenty of cool beverages, thus eliminating the need for bite-size fire extinguishers.
Live entertainment complements the spicy goods. Blues artists, jazz bands, and other musician play throughout the festival, and each day brings special events, such as salsa eating competitions or fire eating performances.
Dewberry Farm opens its gates to let the public browse its vast land in search of fall- and farm-themed attractions. The centerpiece of the farm fun is the four-acre corn maze, which challenges guests to navigate three miles of path before reaching freedom. The entrance of the walking-puzzle is manned by the Corn-cierge, who will provide game sheets to solve brainteasers peppered throughout the maze and tridents for defense against people left behind from last year's maze. Celebrate survival at the farm's 16-acre pumpkin patch, where both carving and cooking pumpkins can be purchased ($0.50 per pound, $1 minimum per pumpkin). For an additional $3, jack-o-lantern aficionados can take a stroll through Punkin' Hollar, featuring more than 500 lighted carved pumpkins in a nature setting with trees, animals, and night sounds.
Seven days a week, the Houston Museum of Natural Science cultivates knowledge with interactive exhibits that shuttle minds into such far-flung realms as tropical rainforests and outer space. Permanent exhibits house everything from the skeletons of brachiosauruses in the recently expanded Hall of Paleontology to a diverse set of artifacts spanning 6,000 years of history in the Hall Of Ancient Egypt. Housed inside three stories of glass, the museum's Butterfly Center teems with more than 1,500 winged wonders from around the globe, which frolic around a 50-foot waterfall, flutter through exotic plants, and—most amazingly—pull nickels from behind children’s ears. Visitors can also gaze skyward in the Burke Baker Planetarium, which casts more than 10 daily shows with curve-mirror projection technology. Eyes marvel at the planetarium's 30'x18' full-dome digital theater, capable of transporting families to the aurora borealis in the Arctic Circle or to the nougat-flavored center of a black hole.
Sculpted onto 55 acres of sprawling plains, including 6 acres dedicated solely to paintball, Oil Ranch entertains visiting families with farm activities, play areas, miniature golf, and paintball areas. The working ranch's friendly staff curates a barnyard full of animals, allowing guests to run their hands through a sheep's soft wool or learn how to milk a chicken. The cheery red-and-blue engine of the OIL Express train chugs around Lake Buenas Noches with passengers in tow, while a green John Deere tractor carts around the hayride wagon. Other activities include a summertime swimming pool, catch-and-release fishing in Lake Buenas Noches, mini golf, and a maze.
Also nestled within the ranch's grounds is a full paintball facility, where varied fields pit groups against each other in friendly clashes of chromaticity. On each field, competitors dive behind mobile cover such as large wooden spools, barrels, and crates, enacting countless tactical situations. All participants must sign waivers don masks, and really, really promise to not stare into the barrels of their own markers before entering the field.